Review: Zerode Taniwha

Zerode is a New Zealand based company which started out making downhill bikes. More recently they have turned their efforts to the Taniwha, a hard hitting enduro bike. While there seems to be an ever growing supply of single crown big chargers, the Zerode bikes stand out from the rest with their gearbox drive systems.

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The Pinion P1.12


Pinion came about when two engineers (and mountain bikers) looked at the exposed derailleur gearing system and considered it outdated. With experience from the German sports car industry, they set out to create an alternative.

 

Zerode have opted to use Pinion’s P1.12 gearbox system, designed specifically for mountain bike use, on the Taniwha. The gearbox features 12 gears all equally spaced with a 600% gear ratio, putting it ahead of traditional 2x10 or 1x12 derailleur systems in terms of gear range. Our test bike was fitted with a 30T sprocket and chainring.

 


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The weighty gearbox is placed exactly where you want it, low and centre.
A major benefit of having a closed gearbox system is that there are few external parts to maintain with the exception of the chain, sprockets, and tensioner arm tucked behind the crankset. The result is a drive system that only requires a basic oil change (60ml) every 10,000 kilometres or once a year.

 

The sealed system means that you no longer have to worry about water, dirt, sticks, and other trail debris getting into the drivetrain. Shifting remains consistent no matter the conditions and there is no fear of grinding your precious parts to death when the trail is damp. There is also no rear derailleur hanging awkwardly between the bike and trail obstacles or waiting to fall apart under the strain of a poorly judged shift.

 

Doing away with the rear mechanics reduces the unsprung mass on the rear of the bike. Pair this with a fixed chain position and the Taniwha should boast excellent suspension performance.

 

The claimed weight of the P1.12 gearbox is 2,350 grams. While I’m not certain what parts that number includes and how much overlap is accounted for with common parts like chains and sprockets, it is still heavier than its closest rival: SRAM X01 Eagle. That said, the bulk of the Pinion systems weight is tucked low down in the bottom bracket area minimizing the impact of the extra weight. Even with the Taniwha’s full carbon frame construction, our test bike weighed a hefty 16.08 kg.

 

The Bike


The gearbox drive system aside, the Taniwha meets all modern enduro bike expectations. The geometry is sufficiently low and slack, and although the reach is perhaps not the longest in the game, it still makes for a roomy fit. The bike is attractive in the carbon and gives you an immediate sense of its big mountain capabilities.

 

While the fork supported a boost hub, the rear remains 142 mm. Due to not having to accommodate a cassette, a single speed hub can be used to build the rear wheel with a symmetrical dish, making it stronger.

 

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Build specification


  • FrameZerode Taniwha
  • ForkFox 36 Factory 160 mm Boost
  • ShockFox Float X2 Factory EVOL RVS
  • HandlebarRenthal Fatbar Carbon
  • StemRenthal Apex 50-60mm
  • SeatpostKS Lev Integra
  • SaddleFabric
  • ShiftersPinion gripshift
  • BrakesSRAM Guide Ultimate
  • SprocketZerode 30T 170mm crank arms
  • ChainShimano XTR
  • CranksetPinion 30T
  • RimscSixx 27.5 END
  • HubsIndustry Nine boost
  • TyresMaxxis Minion DHF 2.5 WT
  • GearboxPinion P1.12
  • RotorsSRAM Centreline 200/180
  • HeadsetCane Creek Forty
  • Weigth16.08kg
  • PricingR129,900

 

The Ride


Gears and shifting


The Pinion system makes a mechanical purring sound as you ride along. It was hard to tell whether this was coming from the tensioning system or the gearbox itself. Despite the sound, pedalling felt decidedly smooth with little indication of power loss in the transmission system.

 


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All the benefits of a single speed drivetrain.
The Taniwha rides like a normal bike except for shifting. Where a derailleur system requires you to move the chain through pedaling, the Pinion gearbox does not. It simply changes gear on command of the shifter. This means that you can even shift while remaining completely stationary.

 

The downside, however, is that the gearbox does not shift when applying power through the pedals. I found that if I got the timing just right I could get away with shifting down to a harder gear while still applying force but jumping to anything easier simply resulted in grinding sounds. This is not a huge problem on steep slopes but trails with varying gradients, you can not run through the full range of gears while staying on the power to the same extent that you can on a derailleur system.

 

It was convenient being able to pre-select gears before dropping into a trail. Likewise, changing gears while riding technical trails or midway through a hard berm without having to risk a few sneaky pedal strokes was revolutionary on the downhills. The combination of a rider’s familiarity with a trail and the Pinion’s pedal-free shifting will make for a frighteningly fast pace.

 


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Shifitng is performed via a familiar gripshift system.
While the Pinion system is excellent on the descents, I struggled to appreciate its operation on the climbs. The act of pausing your pedalling while changing gear is severely disruptive to your momentum and cadence, especially on technical climbs.

 

The Pinion P1.12 shifts gears through a grip shift system which functions very well. One nitpick is that it is hard to shift gears while covering the brakes: at least I was unable to master the technique.

 

On the trails


In defense of any faults of the Pinion system while getting to the top of the mountain, the Taniwha makes a supremely strong case when hurtling down them.

 

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The Zerode Taniwha is an amazingly capable descender. The shuttle rash is an indication of how this bike is supposed to be used.

 

To put it bluntly, the Taniwha has the best feeling rear suspension of any bike I have ridden. Decluttered from the constraints of a derailleur system, it is outrageously sensitive with unparalleled levels of grip. Even bashing through the roughest rock gardens had me wondering whether the rear wheel ever left the ground.

 

Once up to speed, there is little sign of the bike's overall weight, as momentum carries you effortlessly through rock gardens, drops, and over jumps. The bike feels planted in turns and will hold almost any line you choose through rough sections.

 

The specification choices on our Taniwha test bike complemented its ability. The Fox Float X2 embraced its newfound freedom and outperformed my expectations with the Fox 36 continuing to prove itself as a world class fork.

 

The combination of the wide cSixx carbon rims and Maxxis Minion DHF tyres are spot on for the Taniwha, providing the levels of grip that the bike demands. Some might point to the components adding a few extra grams but I feel strongly that there is no point trying to build to a bike’s weakness when the strengths are just so damn good.

 

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A bike with so much ability demands a rider that pushes hard and fast on every ride. On slower trails of moderate steepness, the weight of the Taniwha is noticeable and the bike feels somewhat bulky. Where constant pedalling is required to keep up the pace, the Pinion system struggles to match the fluidity of a derailleur system. The Taniwha is better suited to steep trails.

 

For those looking for the burliest, baddest 160mm enduro bike possible, the Taniwha is it. But you're going to have to be able to forgive a below average climbing experience. Flick into the lower gears and you’ll be climbing slowly but with ease. But no matter how good the gear range or the bikes climbing ability, gravity does not discriminate and 16 kilograms will always be 16 kilograms. Add the weight to the inability to shift while pedalling and the overall climbing experience on the Taniwha can be frustrating. It will be worth paying close attention to your local trail’s shuttle day schedule.

 

In the end


The Zerode Taniwha has the most impressive rear suspension that I have ridden, crushing trails like no other enduro bike. It feels like the rear wheel never leaves the ground. The resulting grip and composure are unmatched. The Taniwha might not be the perfect fit for climbing the mountain but once you turn it downhill, it's very easy to forgive any faults. If you’re a hard charger looking for a bike that won’t hold you back, the Taniwha will happily take as much as (and probably more) than you can deliver.

 




29 Comments

NicoBoshoff, Jul 31 2017 03:37

Marcelcerdan, Aug 01 2017 06:42

Bla bla bla. Come ride it instead of talking about it. We have demos.

You gonna realise how good the build is the way it is. Then if you want one with different components, go for a frame + transmission. Your treat ;) 

James29, Aug 03 2017 09:26

Yes that is true,why do builds like that when you can do it cheaper and still get the same ride.

nah nah mate haha i spec'd it like this to keep it super reliable. want to make it down the hill no matter what and good suspension is very important to me. Ofcourse a lower spec would be just as fun but to get the most out of the bike we felt like it was worth the extra money to get parts that would be in line with the bike. if you ride it you will understand how good it is. Most dont understand how important suspension design on a frame is and how it contributes to the overall feel of the bike thus a higher spec fork and wheels and brakes will make the whole bike feel like one solid trail shredder that i can trust because after all confidence in your bike is everything. if you are ever keen to try it out you are more than welcome. 

dirtypot, Aug 22 2017 10:06

I had the opportunity to ride one of these yesterday - here are some of my thoughts and opinions after giving it a go myself and not just reading about it.

 

I rode it in the same spec as the one from the review - DHF tyres, strong cSixx rims, 36 Fox, etc.  In this setup it is a heavy bike, there's no getting away from that.  But, with the gear range that the gearbox gives you, it's not a hard bike to pedal uphill.  You're not going to get uphill in a hurry but what enduro bike climbs like a mountain goat?  It spins up easily and gets amazing grip.  The shifts are instantaneous and the ratios are nice and close together so there's always the perfect gear for the gradient that you're riding up.  For a burly downhill bomber I was impressed at how efficient it was.  

I had the chance to ride around for a while on the flats and some mild trails before getting to the harder stuff, so I had the chance to get to get to know the Pinion gearbox.  My opinion is that the reviewer over emphasised the 'slacken off while shifting' aspect.  Yes, you do need to slacken your power output while shifting, but that can be said for any regular RD setup as well if you don't want to have a grinding chain.  You only need to back off for a quarter of a second (if that) and the shift is then instantaneous.  You don't need to stop pedalling, just slightly reduce output.  It's not like on a regular system where you have to wait for the chain to make its way onto the next ration, its immediate.  This felt like a revelation when hitting a hill in the wrong gear - on a regular system when you do this you have to drop three gears and soft pedal until the chain is in the right place.  On the Pinion in the same setting you just back off for a split second and then carry on under full power having dropped three gears and having the shift happen instantaneously.  This really feels amazing and was one of the more noticeable advantages that I felt with this system.

 

Obviously pointing the bike downhill is where it excels.  The rear feels noticeably light when jumping or hopping over obstacles in the trail and its easy to flick around - it feels playful which is always great!  Riding down rock step offs and over very rough terrain, the bike just eats up everything as you'd expect.  Another highlight of the Pinion gearbox was selecting a different gear before a corner in anticipation of having to accelerate out the other side.  In rough terrain with a regular setup this isn't always possible,but on the Pinion being able to change gears without pedalling in this instance was invaluable.

 

If I was spec'ing this bike for myself I'd choose the XCM rims with more regular (lighter) tyres and maybe even a Fox 34 up front, but that's because of the type of riding that I usually do - I completely understand this build for a racer where speed and reliability going downhill is paramount.  But those are the personal and 'editable' options - the fixed parts, the frame and gearbox, I find brilliant.  The frame is comfortable and it feels fun to ride.  The gearbox does have a slight learning curve to it, but once you get it the advantages are huge.  There are many advantages that I can see while riding it and the negatives are all part of the learning curve and aren't issues once you've adapted to it.  The off the bike advantages are even bigger - straight chain line, evenly dished rear wheel, pretty much zero maintenance - what's not to like?! 

I strongly recommend that everyone should give this bike a try and really see for themselves.  I had an opinion on this bike from reading reviews, but I have an entirely different view now after having ridden it.  Demo bikes are available, and should be ridden to make your own opinion.  Give JX a call and set it up - you won't be disappointed!

 

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